Celebrities are rallying on Twitter for Jussie Smollett, after he suffered a physical attack in an alleged hate crime in Chicago, during which attackers reportedly shouted pro-MAGA sentiments and racial slurs.
Smollett was reportedly attacked around 2 A.M. on Tuesday, after leaving a Subway restaurant on the North Side of Chicago. The Empire actor was harangued by two white men wearing ski masks who shouted racial and homophobic epithets at him before pouring a “chemical substance” assumed to be bleach on him while wrapping a noose around his neck, beating him, and reportedly yelling, “This is MAGA country.”
The incident was initially reported by TheGrapeJuice.net and TMZ, then confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter after police issued a statement to the publication while the story was still developing. “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the police told THR. According to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department, Smollett transported himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after the attackers fled the scene and has since been discharged in good condition.
After it was revealed that Jamal, Smollett’s character on Empire, was gay, the actor appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to address his sexuality, telling the host, “There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in,” as he announced that his story paralleled his character’s on the show to some degree. In recent years, Smollett has also become a spokesperson for organizations like The Trevor Project to prevent suicide amongst LBGTQ youth, and according to Deadline, GLAAD issued a statement calling the actor a “true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.” The initial reports of the attack revealed that the actor received a letter at Fox Studios (where Empire is often filmed) which read “You will die black f–” in cutout letters on the inside and had “MAGA” written in all caps on the envelope.
Fans and friends of the actor took to Twitter and Instagram to spread their support for Smollett, as some also expressed outrage and questioned the “randomness” of the event, insisting that the alleged hate crime could have been premeditated if the suspects had chemicals and ski masks at the ready. Celebrities including Al Sharpton, Margaret Cho, and Zendaya have shared their responses expressing their shock and concern, and calls for solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Comedian Yassir Lester called for donations to LGBTQ organizations and demanded, “don’t ever tell people in a marginalized group ever to be quiet or stop complaining because we always have to be on the defensive, and when we’re silent things like this happen.”
Related: Jussie Smollett Is Not Jamal